Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 19, 1930, during the Great Depression. He was the first of seven children born to Malachy and Angela McCourt. At the age of four, he and his parents and brothers moved to his mother’s native city, Limerick, in the Republic of Ireland.
As poor Irish Catholics, Frank and his family struggled against hunger, poverty and the alcoholism of his father, whose failure to hold a regular job and provide for the family financially contributed to the early deaths of his daughter, Margaret, and twin sons. As a child, Frank suffered from typhoid and eye ailments, among other illnesses. During World War II, McCourt’s father left Ireland to work in a munitions factory in Coventry, England, but he failed to send any of his earnings back to his family in Ireland. Frank McCourt left school at age thirteen to hold such odd jobs as coal or telegram delivery boy.
McCourt managed to save some money and he left Ireland for the United States in 1949, when he was nineteen years old. He worked at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City and subsequently in several menial jobs. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War in the early 1950s. After he left the army, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and attended New York University, graduating with a degree in English. In 1958, he earned a master's degree in English at Brooklyn College and went on to become a high-school English teacher.
He taught English at McKee and Stuyvesant High Schools for 30 years. After retiring in 1987, he wrote a memoir of his life in Ireland, the best-selling Angela’s Ashes (1996). The book won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997 and was made into a movie in 1999.
Also in 1999, Frank McCourt published the sequel to Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, which focuses more on his experience as an immigrant in America. In 2005, he published Teacher Man, about his travails as an inexperienced teacher dealing with disruptive students, and, in 2007, the fourth book in the series, Angela and the Baby Jesus was published.
As of 2008, McCourt lives in Connecticut with his wife Ellen. McCourt has a daughter, Maggie, from a previous marriage, as well as a granddaughter named Chiara.
Angela's Ashes: Biography: Frank McCourt